Happy Friday, internet. Here’s the 2nd half of Chapter 13 of my less-than-inspiring novel, “The Suburbs of Babylon.”
“Rosarito is a paradox. Seasonally it is jammed tip to tail with college coeds drinking, dancing, whooping and shtupping with wild abandon. The sight of which is positively energizing. However, the town itself is nothing more than a parody of fun, its sole revenue source being tourism, though Americans are openly despised by the locals. The hotels are kept impeccably clean while the townspeople remain coated in a stinking soot that seems to fall over everything during the night. Just north of the town is some kind of refinery with two huge smokestacks that belch a never-ending brown cloud into the air, which explains the soot. I surmised to Art that the refinery might be where all the feces in Mexico is funneled, where it is boiled and hardened into shit bricks which are then used to construct the buildings in town. It would explain the smell. Hanging almost as thick is the air of danger, the skip-and-jump-away-from-disaster feeling that never leaves you here. At the clubs, fights break out every minute. Last night at Papa’s it took four bouncers to remove two girls who wouldn’t let go of each other’s hair. Alvin and I were almost bludgeoned by the frenzied men around us when a girl on a platform above us began taking her clothes off. Every time someone pukes or falls down in public the crowd roars with delight. The fact that we’ve been down here so many times and not gotten into a fight is miraculous. Though it could have something to do with the fact that Alvin and Art are both six foot-five and have Herculean physiques. I’m always sure to stick close to one of them, in the interest of health.
The feeling of imminent danger could explain why I always have the premonition of death before coming here (yes, I did have that feeling again, and no, I didn’t die). I ignore it now, chalk it up to a more general prediction that I will, in fact, die someday while venturing far from home. Although I have been foreseeing my passing quite frequently lately, and not just when I take a trip. So who knows.
We had a bit of a scare coming back over the border, though. The only road leading back to San Diego was blocked by the Mexican police, who were pulling Americans over at random. Alvin and I got caught, while Art and Norman zipped by in another car. The policeman, if you could call him that, came to the window and started spinning this yarn about how a cop some miles back had radioed ahead that we were speeding. Well, Alvin had been driving so carefully that it would’ve been easier to believe he was going too slow. But Al played along obediently, even when the guy said we’d have to go down to the station to pay the ticket. So like good boys we got ready to drive all over hell, but something was amiss. It seemed like the cop didn’t really want us to go anywhere. He wanted us to pay him right then and there, in cash. He hadn’t even shown us a ticket. “We’ll have to find an ATM, officer, because we’re literally flat broke,” Said Alvin. Which was true. We’d spent every last dime in Rosarito.
“No money?” asked the cop, and then with a spiteful look snarled, “Well, just be more careful next time.” And he let us go. It dawned on us as we drove off that we had just escaped being extorted by the crooked, thieving Mexican police. We were simultaneously relieved and pissed as all get out.
But amazingly, that wasn’t the worst point in the trip. The account above began on our third day down. I’ve waited till now to reveal the debacle that befell us the night we arrived.
The four of us—Alvin, Norman, Art, and myself—checked in at the hotel and went for a walk around town. I found a cigar shop that sold Cuban Cohibas and blew fifty bucks in a flash. Then we decided to have lunch at Rock & Roll Taco, but lo and behold, it was happy hour, and lunch turned out to be a four-hour booze fest. And to add to it, the girls at the table next to us were from a sorority in Kentucky, and after latching onto us like boa constrictors, proceeded to make spectacles of themselves, dancing on the tables, removing their tops and swinging them over their heads, and nearly starting a riot. At one point, one robust blond with a tattoo on her left breast was freaking me on the dance floor, grabbing my hair with one hand and spanking me with the other. It was a strange sensation to say the least. I allowed it to continue, but when she tried to stick her hand down the front of my jeans, I drew the line. I stepped away and made a beeline for the restroom. When I came back I started dancing with a beautiful Mexican girl in a tube top and hot pants. The other girl, the one with the wandering hands, evidently became incensed, because before I knew what was happening, she had socked the beautiful Mexican in the cheek. In a heartbeat, the rest of the Kentucky-fried sorority sisters were in the fray, kicking and shoving—and the poor victim had no idea what was happening or why. A second later, the bouncers were everywhere and before the song was over the whole bar was cleared and we were out on the street.
The sun had gone down by that point, so we went back to the hotel and changed and then walked over to Papas & Beer. There was a live band playing while a wet t-shirt contest was going on over by the main bar. Women were stripping down to their g-strings and letting guys pour beer over their chests. It was pretty outrageous. I wondered again at my own gender, how we are ruled by our testes, how the idea of the promise of bare breasts or the submission of a woman for objectification seems like the most important thing in the world. Until it happens, and we are no more gratified, instead feel slightly emptier, until our primitive urges rise once again, sending us in search of the elusive living porno, the Madonna-whore, the unattainable fantasy that makes men unfaithful, fills strip joints, breaks hearts, and darkens the psyche. Forever caught, we are, between the desire for love and the compulsion to satiate our instinct to copulate. But even as I admitted this to myself, there among the throngs of bellowing frat boys, I was unable to tear my eyes away from the young thin blonde twisting her hips to the beat of the music, soaked in beer, almost naked, a look of ecstasy on her face. Then I had a momentary thought—an image of Jane up on that platform, stripping for the crowd, inciting the mad lust of strangers. I felt my knees go weak.
Suddenly I wanted to get out of there. I felt tired and sick, and the only thing that sounded appealing was being asleep, free of thought, lost in unconsciousness. I didn’t even tell the others I was leaving. I just stepped backwards out of the crowd, turned, and slipped out the exit. The streets were teeming with people, drunk, belligerent, obscene. I quickened my pace, my head down, my strength quickly draining from me. As I rounded a corner onto a dark side street, I heard the familiar whooping and cheering of a group of men up ahead. They were standing in a circle around a shadowy spot between two buildings, facing away from the street. I made haste to pass them, but as I did, I heard another sound—the moan of a young woman. My first thought was that, in her drunken stupor, she was putting on some kind of sex show like you see in those “Girls Gone Crazy” videos. My curiosity got the best of me and I slowed and looked over. Between two of the frat brothers I caught a glimpse of the girl. She was passed out and leaning against a wall. Her shorts were at her ankles, and a stocky balding college boy was struggling to remove her shirt. She moaned as if in the midst of a bad dream, her eyes closed, her arms limp. Then I realized what I was seeing. Without thinking, I quickly stepped between two of the cheering idiots, and before the guy knew what was happening, kicked him as hard as I could in the mouth. His head flew up and back, his eyes staring blankly at the sky. He stuck one arm straight up in the air and then fell over on the concrete, the arm still sticking up like an idiot’s salute. I had knocked him out cold. Blood began to stream from his nose.
For a moment, nothing happened. Everyone was shocked, including myself. Then one of the guys broke the silence, crying out, “Son of a bitch!” and several emotions grabbed me at once. The adrenaline caught up with me and I began to shake. In the same instant I realized that I was surrounded by half a dozen of this guy’s friends and would at any moment be set upon. Then I looked down at the girl. I was standing over her, my hands balled into fists. I had a lightning-flash image of this girl trying to explain to her parents what had happened to her in Mexico as their eyes welled up with tears, and when I looked back at the drunks around me I was completely overcome with rage. The two seconds of fear I felt was forgotten, and I looked at each one of them in the eyes, knowing they would beat me senseless but not caring. No one was going to touch this girl, and I was determined to hurt as many of them as I could before I lost consciousness.
But to my surprise, no one attacked. No one even said anything to me. Two of the frat boys bent over to pick up their fallen friend while everyone else backed off and languidly strolled up the street. At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure I was going to have every bone in my body broken. But this was a group of cowards, and the guy I sucker-punched must have been the brave one, because once he was out, they scattered like roaches. I knelt down and clumsily pulled the girl’s shirt down ever her breasts. She attempted to say something, eyes still closed, but it was incoherent. I stood her up against the wall and bent over to pull up her shorts. She slumped at the waist, her torso resting on my back, which made the whole ordeal even harder. I tried to hold her up with one hand while wriggling her shorts up with the other. I felt like a parent trying to dress a helpless child. Finally I got her dressed and practically carried her off the shadowy street and back to the main strip. But then I had no idea what to do, so I just sat down against the door of a closed liquor store with the girl next to me, her arm around my neck, her head on my shoulder. People who passed by pointed and laughed, cheered her drunkenness, urged me to “take her home and do her.”
All I could think about was crawling into bed and going to sleep. But I didn’t dare leave the girl alone. I turned to get a good look at her. She had a dark tan, the kind only college freshmen can have, brown hair streaked with gold, small ears and nose, full lips. She had one of those bottom lips that make a person look like they’re always pouting. Even in her unconscious state she looked as if she might throw a tantrum. I pulled at one eyelid. She had stone-gray eyes with green flecks near her pupils. She pulled her head away from my hand, crinkled her brow, smacked her lips, and settled back against my shoulder. Then I noticed she was wearing a wristband from our hotel, which meant that she was probably staying there. But I didn’t have the strength to carry her that far. I put my head back against the door of the store and sighed. All around me people crowded the streets, but none of them took any notice of us. It looked like I’d be there forever, but after a few minutes, Alvin and Norman came by and helped me walk the girl to our hotel, where we left her with the concierge in the lobby. When I told my friends what had happened, they didn’t believe me. I don’t blame them; I’m not the fighting kind. I honestly have no idea what came over me. I have no explanation for it. I think if I had taken even a second to think before acting, I wouldn’t have had the courage to do what I did. But that’s between you and me. The next morning I was awakened by the sound of Alvin talking to a girl at the door of our room. He was speaking softly, but I could tell by the tone that he was using the fake voice and persona he puts on when he’s trying to convince a girl that he’s something other than a completely self-absorbed son of a bitch. I sat up just as he was coming back inside.
“Who was that?” I asked him. “Oh, that was the girl you helped last night. She just stopped by to say thank you. She was pretty cute, man, did you notice?”
“Yeah,” I said, my suspicions growing. “What did you tell her?”
“Oh, I just said it was our pleasure and we were just glad she was OK.”
“Our pleasure?” I asked. “Our pleasure? You didn’t tell her you had nothing to do with it, did you? You let her think you saved her.”
“No, I told her it was all of us. She gave me her room number. She wants to buy us drinks later tonight.” I knew what that meant. Alvin would be conveniently losing us just in time to meet up with the girl—alone. Typical behavior for Alvin. Actually, for all these guys. You know, I call these guys my friends because I’ve known them forever, and because I have no other friends, and because most guys relate to each other in the same way—that is, they’re your friend, but they’d step over you to get to a girl—and I accept that, but the truth is, sometimes I think they’re real assholes.
I didn’t make an issue of it, because to do so would make me look like a glory hound. I knew I had saved her, and that would have to be enough. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, because that night, after baking in the sun all day we went to dinner together, and Alvin never found time to go find the girl. No one saw her again. Instead we stayed in the hotel restaurant, keeping our eyes peeled for her, getting progressively more drunk, until we were over the edge and went back to the room to pass out.
For all the things you could say about the trip, uneventful was not one of them.”
I’d forgotten all about this until re-reading it before posting here. “Alvin” (that’s not his real name) was my friend for over 20 years. It took me that long to realize he was a piece of shit. It could be why I have no close friends today. That, and moving to the other side of the world. My buddies Lucky and Kee Mao Moo are more than enough now, as far as a circle of friends goes. I don’t think I could stand anyone else, and I attribute that to the “friends” of my past. Besides, when you surround yourself with hot, naked Thai girls, you don’t really need male friends. Thank God.